Dried sourdough starter is inexpensive and easily sent through the mail.  Generally speaking, whoever sends you the dry starter will also send instructions  telling you the best way to turn powder or flakes back into an active and useful moist colony of wild yeasts.

If you get your starter from me, I recommend  two ways to rehydrate dried sourdough starter.

The first way is the fastest, but literally everyone who has done it this way makes the same mistake: they use all of the rehydrated sourdough starter in one loaf of bread.

Sourdough starter is a group of living organisms.  Once the sourdough starter has formed a liquid colony, it takes at least a couple of weeks to fully develop it’s distinctive flavor.  It may take a year or more for rehydrated sourdough to become fully acclimated to your environment.  One “feeds” the sourdough colony equal amounts of water and flour once ever week – or more often if you make sourdough bread more than once a week.  Every time you use 1/2 cup of starter to make bread, you “feed” the sourdough remaining in your jar or crock  1/2 cup of water and 1/2 cup of flour.

The first way … (All pictures in this section are courtesy of Sue Nowak.) 

In a small bowl:

measure out 1 teaspoon of the dry starter — it doesn’t have to be packed, just the loose flakes are fine. It really doesn’t take much!

ReStart1SN
1 teaspoon of dried flakes is plenty! Add 1/2 cup water and let it sit.

add 1/2 cup lukewarm water (baby bottle temperature) — most of the starter floats to the top — don’t worry about it. Don’t stir. Just walk away for half an hour or 45 minutes.ReStart2SN.

After the starter has softened a bit, half an hour later add 1/2 cup wheat flour (all purpose, whole grain, whatever, as long as it’s made from wheat.) and stir until smooth. You do want to make sure all of the flour is stirred in.

That's all you need: 1/2 cup water, 1/2 cup flour, and a small teaspoon full of dry starter!
That’s all you need: 1/2 cup water, 1/2 cup flour, and a small teaspoon full of dry starter!

Cover it with plastic wrap so it won’t dry out, and let it sit on your counter for 48 hours.

Now you wait for 48 hours...
Now you wait for 48 hours…

After 24 hours Sue’s starter had a bit of a crust, and didn’t look like much.

Sue's starter after 24 hours - a few bubbles, a little puffy, and a crust.  Yours may look quite different.  It's all good as long as there is no mold!
Sue’s starter after 24 hours – a few bubbles, a little puffy, and a crust. Yours may look quite different. It’s all good as long as there is no mold!

Since Sue’s starter was nice and puffy, I told her to go ahead and add another 1/2  cup flour and 1/2 cup water, and stir it until smooth…  The next morning she had beautiful bubbling sourdough, so she promptly made bread instead of putting the whole colony into a clean 2 quart crock, or clean jar, and “feeding” it ANOTHER 1 cup of flour and 1 cup of water….  I’m not picking on Sue here – literally everyone who rehydrated their dry sourdough this way did exactly the same thing.

 Once the colony has formed in the bowl, the entire colony gets moved to a crock, and gets fed 1 cup of flour, and 1 cup of water, stir until smooth and put the crock into your refrigerator for a week.  Then you can use some of the colony to bake sourdough bread!  

Obviously I need to write some better instructions!  So I thought about it for a while, and came up with another way to rehydrate dried sourdough starter.

The second way to Rehydrate Dried Sourdough starter

StartHere
Put 1/2 cup of flour n a 1 Gallon Hefty Ziploc bag. Dissolve 1/2 teaspoon dried sourdough starter in 1/2 cup of warm water.
1CupWater!CupFlour
Pour the water containing the dried sourdough starter into the bag.  Zip the bag closed.
FirstSmoosh
Squish the bag with your hands until the flour, water, and dried sourdough starter are well combined.  “Burp” the bag by holding it upright, unzipping the corner, and carefully pushing out as much air as possible.
WellSmooshed
Zip the bag shut, and it looks like this — no obvious lumps of flour, and not much air in the bag.  Now ignore it for 24 hours.
AfterBeingIgnored
24 hours later, the flour and water have probably separated. Time to squish the bag again.
JustSmooshBag
Squish the bag until you have a smooth mixture, and then, if necessary, “burp” it again to get as much air as possible out of it.  Ignore it for another 2 or 3 days unless you need to “burp” the bag to prevent the bag from exploding.  (Sourdough is a living thing, that produces carbon dioxide and alcohol.  Don’t drink the alcohol, by the way, it is very poor quality unless you distill it, which is basically illegal.)
HoochAndWaterOnTop
After squishing and burping the bag once a day for a week, there’s still water floating on top of the flour, but there are also a few bubbles, and a lot more gas. (The carbon dioxide – my sourdough starter is working.)
FeedBag
Time to “feed” the sourdough starter. I add 1 cup of flour, and 1 cup of water, zip the bag up and (you guessed it!) SQUISH the bag.

At this point real life interrupted, and I completely ignored this bag of sourdough starter for more than a week….

FlourAdded
When I got back to this starter, it was badly in need of burping and smelled so strongly of sourdough that I just added 1/2 cup of flour before squishing the bag.  As you can see, the gallon bag is now almost half full….
HappySourdoughBag1
The next day, this is what my bag of sourdough starter looked like — lots and lots of bubbles, with plenty to cook with AND plenty to put into it’s permanent home in the storage crock!
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